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#1LineWed – Now

1LineWedToday’s theme for 1 Line Wednesday, sponsored by RWA’s Kiss of Death Chapter is NowHere’s a line from chapter 4 of The Invasion, book 4 in The Union Series, from Cyrus’s POV.

“It…it reminds me of…” Of what? What I gave up to be here? The girl I love who’s now screwing someone else?

You can see previous week’s themes and lines here.

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I Have Cancer, but I Am NOT Cancer

breast-cancer-awareness-day-ly4leeclI have cancer.

But I am NOT cancer.

Cancer is a part of my life at the moment, but it doesn’t define me.

I’m a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a cousin, a friend. I’m a reader, a writer, a music lover. I adore dancing in my kitchen like the white girl with no rhythm that I am. love to laugh and sing off-key at the top of my lungs. I used to love coffee until chemo ruined that for me, I still love wine, but no longer drink it. I’m still me, I just happen to also have cancer.

My daily routine is at the mercy of doctors’ appointments, lab work, tests, and procedures. My outings are subject to white blood counts, and my meals are driven by cravings and aversions. This is my life at the moment, but it is not who I am.

I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t scare me at times, but I’d also be lying if I said I let it dictate anything beyond what is absolutely necessary. I don’t dwell on it, and when I’m feeling good, like today, I forget my boob is trying to kill me.

I have cancer, but cancer is not me.

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#1LineWed – Old

1LineWedToday’s theme for 1 Line Wednesday, sponsored by RWA’s Kiss of Death Chapter is Old. Here’s a line from my WIP, a young adult superhero novel, Superhero High.

He shoves his gun against my spine and pushes me toward an ancient house with slumping walls and a crumbling roof.

You can see previous week’s themes and lines here.

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#1LineWed – Friendship

1LineWedToday’s theme for 1 Line Wednesday, sponsored by RWA’s Kiss of Death Chapter is Friendship. Here’s a line from my new young adult superhero novel, Superhero High.

The album is filled with pictures of us. Ballet recitals, swim meets, birthdays. We’ve been together for all life’s important events. Until now. I swipe away a tear and whisper, “I can’t do this without you, Ronny.”

You can see previous week’s themes and lines here.

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Review – New Subscription Service – Playster (Books, Music, Movies, Games)

Playster Subscription Serivce

As someone who has Kindle Unlimited, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Pandora, and makes regular visits to my local RedBox, I was excited to find out about Playster. Playster boasts the world’s most diverse digital catalogue, and considering they provide eBooks, audiobooks, music, movies, and game, that’s probably a fair statement, although it’s unlikely they have the most diverse catalogue in each category. Still, with the temporary account Playster provided me to evaluate their service, I was impressed with the content they have available. Current releases in each category are available along with classics. Playster is still in beta mode, but you can get a free thirty-day subscription to check it out.

Overview
Playster is the world’s first all-inclusive online entertainment service, bringing together music, movies, books and games into a single subscription. The service boasts millions of titles in all genres across every media platform, from timeless classics to the newest blockbusters.

Playster’s extensive media library gives users instant, unrestricted access to a wide variety of relevant and exciting titles from anywhere in the world, with the North American and European markets benefiting from the strongest array of content. As well as providing members with the biggest names in entertainment, Playster also offers a social experience and a powerful platform on which to discover new niches.

Playster works on virtually any web-enabled device, and has a limitless potential for growth. Currently in BETA, the Playster app is set to launch in the summer of 2015, paving the way for the service to become the most complete portable entertainment experience on the market.

Playster Books

What I Liked
1. Extensive library. 
Playster has a lot to choose from, and I’m told new content is being added weekly. Many of the books in their library are not available on Kindle Unlimited. Playster is working with top content providers, including HarperCollins, Simon & Shuster, and Harlequin. They’ve also teamed up with distributor, Digital Entertainment Group, allowing Playster’s subscribers to gain access to DEG’s extensive collection of movies, music, television shows, and video games.

2. Cost. At $25/month, it’s a pretty good value. If you have both Audible and Kindle Unlimited subscriptions, you’re already paying that much without the music, movies, and games. If you only have Kindle Unlimited and Netflix, you’re almost at that without the audiobooks, music, and games. And if you only have a gaming subscription service, you’re likely paying close to $20/month without books, music, or movies. If you sign up for a full year at $25/month, they’ll send you a tablet and a set of headphones for free. And, if you want to add a second household member to your account, it’s only an additional $10/month.

3. Indie authors. One of the best things about Kindle Unlimited is the ability to discover an amazing array of indie authors. Some of my favorite books are written by indies, so I don’t want to give that up. Playster works with indie authors, so readers and writers alike benefit. If you’re an indie author, be sure to check out their page on how to get your books included in the Playster library.

4. Intuitive user interface. The site couldn’t be any easier to use. There is nothing complicated or confusing about it. Click on the desired category and select the book, movie, TV show, song, game, or audiobook you want. It’s as simple as that.

5. Donation to charity. A portion of the proceeds from your subscription is donated to Unicef. So while you get unlimited access to a plethora of entertainment options, you’re helping mothers and babies in some of the poorest countries around the world.

What I Didn’t Like
1. Limited ability to download. 
Currently, you need internet access to use most of the services, with the exception of ebooks which can be downloaded. Unless you have unlimited data, listening to an eBook while you walk the dog can end up being rather expensive. This also means if you want to download a movie to your tablet to watch on the plane or to entertain the kids on the long drive to Grandma’s, you can’t. At least not yet. A representative from Playster told me there’s a possibility that other media types will be available in the future for offline use, but no timeline is currently available for this functionality.

2. Limited mobile support. An Android app is currently available, but I wasn’t able to test it since I don’t have an Android device. An iOS app is currently under review by Apple. I’ll be able to comment on this functionality after I’ve had a chance to try it.

3. Cost. This is both a positive and a negative. It’s a good value for what you get, but if you don’t use all the features, you could end up paying a lot for the services you do access.

Bottom Line
Playster is an intriguing entry into the subscription marketplace, offering a lot of variety, but it’s not quite time to cancel your other services just yet. If and when Playster offers offline capabilities, the marketplace is about to get crazy competitive.

About Playster
Website: Playster.com
Cost: $24.95/month with a free 30-day trial
Services: eBooks, audiobooks, music, games, movies, TV shows
Limitations: Internet access required
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Website | Authors & Publishers | Facebook  | Twitter

The 10-Days of Gratitude Selfie Challenge – Day 3

Day 3The 10 Days of Gratitude Selfie Challenge.

Day 3 – Grateful for the Little Things

Morning coffee, rainy days, warm fuzzy socks, sleeping in, conversations with three-year-olds, singing at the top of my lungs to my favorite song in my car alone, unexpected package deliveries, fresh-baked bread.

Leaves that change colors, sipping hot cocoa, crackling fires, snuggling under a blanket, cool grass under bare feet on a summer day, vibrant sunsets, a new book, micro brewed beer, wine tasting with friends.

Playing Cards Against Humanity, family gatherings, bocce tournaments, the Chargers actually winning a game, and Doctor Who marathons with my kids.

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The 10-Days of Gratitude Selfie Challenge – Day 2

Day 2The 10 Days of Gratitude Selfie Challenge.

Day 2 – Grateful for Failed Birth Control

I was always going to have kids. Someday. But as my late 20s became my early 30s and someday hadn’t come, I focused on my career. I had just started a new job and gone back to college, when I found myself single and facing a positive pregnancy test. My someday had come.

One shotgun wedding and eight months later, my life changed forever in the best possible way. Maybe my someday didn’t happen the way I always thought it would, but if I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Today I challenge my sister, Elizabeth Anne Shulok to take the challenge.

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The 10-Days of Gratitude Selfie Challenge – Day 1

Day 1I was nominated by my niece, Michelle Buffington, for the 10 Days of Gratitude Selfie Challenge. I usually loathe these sorts of things because anything is fun for a day or two, but beyond that, it’s just a burden. However, it is November and Thanksgiving is right around the corner, so I’m game.

Day 1 – Grateful for Tiny Miracles

Just over 13 years ago, I went into preterm labor at 21 weeks. I was told if they couldn’t stop labor, my boys had less than a 20% chance of survival, and if they made it, an 80% chance of debilitating lifelong complications.

After a two-month hospital stay, plus another month of bed rest at home, we made it to 35-1/2 weeks. Tiny but mighty, they had almost no body fat and difficulty maintaining their body temps, but we all went home together four days later.

Today I nominate Traci Reed to take the challenge.

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Teen Super Heroes? Why Yes, I Think I Will!

Teenage Super Heroes

It’s that time of the year again. Pumpkin, turkey, cranberries, and spending every spare minute writing. Yep, NaNoWriMo is here again. NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, a challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I first attempted the challenge in 2012 and managed to draft 60K words of The Ruins, rounding out the first draft topping over 100K by the end of December. It was still two-and-a-half years before it was published, but getting the first draft down is the first step to publication.

nano-2015-participant-badge-large-squareI skipped 2013 and last year, between launching The Union, I attempted NaNo again. I managed to get maybe a third of Found drafted, the story of The Union from Cyrus’s point of view. I cleaned up and released that, a chapter at a time, to newsletter subscribers, but I still only have about two-thirds of it done at this point.

For me, getting the first draft written is the hardest part. While I love the process of writing, the free flow of text without worrying about grammar, punctuation, or sentence flow (anyone who has been a beta reader for me can attest to the ugliness of my early drafts), I’m always afraid I’m going to stall and plummet to the story’s demise. So by forcing myself to write every day for thirty days, even if I don’t know what I’m going to write when I sit down, I hope to push through the fear and just get words to page (or screen).

With that in mind, I decided to use this month and this year’s challenge to draft a book that’s been rolling around in my head for close to a year. If I can get this thing drafted, maybe I can turn it into something halfway decent over the next couple of years. Tentatively titled, Super Hero High, I have this idea of the teenage offspring of the world’s super heroes trying to cope with hormones while simultaneously being able to melt steel and fly.

After the first week, I have a little more than 14K words drafted, thanks to Thursday night’s write-in at our local Coffee Bean. That night, I wrote over 3K words. Yeah, okay, so it’s mostly crap, but the plot is finally starting to take shape, and I’m getting a feel for my characters. I’m listening to a lot of Five for Fighting, Daughtry, and 3 Doors Down to find my inspiration, but it’s been fun to write something contemporary, even if it has a strong science fiction bend to it.

Super Hero High Word Count

If you’re interested, here’s the blurb I came up with so far, in an attempt to keep me focused:

Super Hero High
Sixteen-year-old Annarenee Stevens is the sole member of her family without a super power. The only time she feels powerful is in the pool. With her sights set on swimming for U.C. Berkeley, she’s ready to win it all at the State championship this year, securing her future.

When the government ends the Genetically Enhanced Asset (GEA) program and relocates all the GEA families to San Diego, life is about to take an unexpected twist. With the end of the program, her hero brother now needs a college education, too, meaning the only way Annarenee is getting into Berkeley is on a scholarship.

Queen of her public school, Annarenee is just another zero at Super Hero High, a school without any sports teams. Her dream is slipping through her fingers, no matter how tightly she clings to it. To make matters worse, super hot super hero, Ren Gonzalez, is paying too much attention to her. The kind of attention that has Ren’s ex-girlfriend intent on making Annarenee’s life even more miserable.

But when heroes begin disappearing, zeroes and heroes will be forced to team up in order to solve the mystery. All they have to do is not kill each other first.

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Month in Review – October 2015

October is by far my favorite month of the year. I love when the temperatures, sort of, sometimes, get cooler in San Diego, plus Halloween. But mostly it’s all about the pumpkin. Pumpkin spice lattes, This Pumpkin Walked into a Bar, pumpkin pasta, muffins, pie, and more. I also managed to do a little more reading this month than I did earlier in the summer. These are the books I reviewed in October:

Mad Love 2 by Colet Abedi

Mad Love 2 (Mad Love Series #2) by Colete Abedi

4 Stars

Title: Mad Love 2
Series: Mad Love #2
Author: Colet ABedi
Publisher: Bird Street Books
Pages: 262
Category: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis
Heartbroken by the handsome and enigmatic Clayton Astor Sinclair, Sophie Walker has put her whirlwind romance with him in the Maldives behind her and is determined to focus on her career as an artist.

But when her new job in the south of France turns out to be too good to be true, she can’t help but wonder if she is making a mistake. Their passion cannot be denied, but when Clayton shuts her out after a family tragedy, Sophie is determined to fight for what is right. She must defy all odds to find her own happily ever after. 

This book is intended for mature audiences.

Bottom Line
A worthy follow-up to Mad Love, it’s intense, emotional, and delves deeper into the characters we’ve come to know. The jury is still out on whether or not I love them.

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Pepped Up Forever (Pepper Jones Series) by Ali Dean

Pepped Up Forever (Pepper Jones #5) by Ali Dean

4.5 Stars

Title: Pepped Up Forever
Series:  Pepper Jones #5
Author: Ali Dean
Release Date: October 1, 2015
Pages: 180
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis
This is the fifth and final book in the Pepper Jones series, and it’s one you don’t want to miss.

Pepper Jones is ready to start breaking some records. She’ll be a junior in college, and if she wants to run professionally when she graduates, it’s time to step things up a notch. This time around, she knows it won’t be accomplished by ramping up her training. While Pepper’s hoping for a race day breakthrough, she wonders if there’s a mental barrier holding her back, and if so, how is she supposed to confront it?

Meanwhile, Jace Wilder wants Pepper back any way he can have her, but he’s reluctant to bulldoze his way into her life having already crushed her once (okay, probably a few more times than that) before. More scenes from Jace’s point of view in the book shed a new perspective into the character Pepper fans love to hate, and hate to love, delving into those layers he’s only given glimpses of in the past.

The Brockton crew is growing up. Zoe and Wes. Jenny and Rollie. Lexi and Brax. Bunny and Wallace. Pepper and ??? It’s time to find out what Pepper’s happily ever after will be.

Bottom Line
A worthy ending to a great series.

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The Rebel by Adrienne Giordano

The Rebel by Adrienne Giordano

4 Stars

Title: The Rebel
Author: Adrienne Giordano
Publisher: Harlequin Intrigue
Release Date: October 1, 2015
Pages: 234
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Rating: 4 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | GooglePlay | Harlequin

Synopsis
Bad to the bone…in all the right ways

A brilliant civil lawyer, David Hennings has always been the outsider—at odds with his wealthy family, shunning relationships, defying convention as a sexy leather-jacketed biker. Which is why sculptor Amanda LeBlanc agrees to his request to reconstruct a skull from a cold case murder. The instant heat between them is scorching.

But once Amanda takes the job and gets too close to the rebellious attorney, her carefully balanced life is upended by a series of methodical attacks. Someone doesn’t want her to finish the job. Now David will risk everything not to lose the woman he unknowingly put in jeopardy.

Bottom Line
The Rebel is a mystery wrapped in a romantic suspense with a big dose of fully-developed characters.

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How to Say I Love You Out Loud by Karole Cozzo

How to Say I Love You Out Loud by Karole Cozzo

5 Stars

Title: How to Say I Love You Out Loud
Author: Karole Cozzo
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Release Date: August 4, 2015
Pages: 240
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

Synopsis
When Jordyn Michaelson’s autistic brother joins her at her elite school, she’s determined not to let anyone know they’re related. Even if that means closing herself off to all her closest friends, including charming football stud Alex Colby.

But despite her best intentions, she just can’t shake the memory of kissing Alex last summer, and the desire to do it again.

Can Jordyn find the courage to tell Alex how she really feels—and the truth about her family—before he slips away forever?

 Bottom Line
How to Say I Love You Out Loud is an emotional look at finding your own words and the strength to say them out loud.

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How Fiction Works by Oakley Hall

How Fiction Works by Oakley Hall

3.5 Stars

Title: How Fiction Works
Author: Oakley Hall
Publisher: Story Press
Publication Date: January 5, 2001
Pages: 240
Category: Writing Fiction
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis
In How Fiction Works, Oakley Hall expands upon and broadens the instruction that made The Art and Craft of Novel Writing so successful.

This new book covers all forms and lengths of fiction, probes deeper into every topic, offers new examples and includes exercises and the end of every chapter. He explains the basic and finer points of the fiction-writing process from word choice and imagery to authority and viewpoint.

The book is divided into three sections, beginning with “The Basics.” In this section, Hall explores the micro elements of storytelling, such as details, word choice, images, symbol and metaphor. He then moves on! to “The Elements,” which covers the primary elements of fiction: point of view, characterization and plot. Citing numerous examples from classic and contemporary work, he shows readers how these elements function separately and in concert. Finally, the focus shifts to the specific types of fiction – short shorts, short stories, novellas, and novels – also known as “The Forms.” Each form presents a unique challenge to the writer, and Hall explains how to meet those challenges.

Beginning, as well as more advanced writers, will find much to like about this book.

Bottom Line
How Fiction Works includes sound advice for fiction writers with illustrative examples. It’s definitely worth a read.

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The Book of Ivy (Book of Ivy Series) by Amy Engel

The Book of Ivy (Book of Ivy #1) by Amy Engel

4 Stars

Title: The Book of Ivy
Series: The Book of Ivy #1
Author: Amy Engel
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: November 11, 2014
Pages: 304
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo BooksiTunesGoogle Books

Bottom Line
The Book of Ivy is a familiar dystopian tale with enough of its own uniqueness to set it apart from the rest.

Synopsis
After a brutal nuclear war, the United States was left decimated. A small group of survivors eventually banded together, but only after more conflict over which family would govern the new nation. The Westfalls lost. Fifty years later, peace and control are maintained by marrying the daughters of the losing side to the sons of the winning group in a yearly ritual.

This year, it is my turn.

My name is Ivy Westfall, and my mission is simple: to kill the president’s son—my soon-to-be husband—and restore the Westfall family to power.

But Bishop Lattimer is either a very skilled actor or he’s not the cruel, heartless boy my family warned me to expect. He might even be the one person in this world who truly understands me. But there is no escape from my fate. I am the only one who can restore the Westfall legacy.

Because Bishop must die. And I must be the one to kill him…

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#1LineWed – Time

1LineWedToday’s theme for 1 Line Wednesday, sponsored by RWA’s Kiss of Death Chapter is Time. Here’s a couple of lines from Cyrus’s POV from The Uprising.

I can’t pretend her sleeping with that douche doesn’t piss me off. I want to punch something every time I see him, which is pretty much every fucking day.

You can see previous week’s themes and lines here.

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#1LineWed – Last Line of a Chapter

1LineWedToday’s theme for 1 Line Wednesday, sponsored by RWA’s Kiss of Death Chapter is the Last Line of a Chapter. Here is the last line from Chapter 12 of The Uprising.

Evan’s POV:
I realize what I want, what I’ve always wanted. Stepping back, I take his hand, lacing our fingers, and lead him to my tent.

You can see previous week’s themes and lines here.

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#1LineWed – Dialogue

1LineWedToday’s theme for 1 Line Wednesday, sponsored by RWA’s Kiss of Death Chapter is Dialogue. Here are a few lines from Cyrus’s POV.

Chapter 5 – Cyrus’s POV:
“What’s going on with you and the redhead.”
“We’re not talking about this, Rainey.”
“Sure we are. You’re being a giant ass.”

You can see previous week’s themes and lines here.

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